This week has been Allergy Awareness Week. According to AllergyUK, allergy awareness week is:
“Running from Monday 23rd April to Sunday 29th April, the week is designed to raise awareness of people living with allergies.
This year, we will be focusing on travelling with an allergy and raising awareness of the issues faced by people with allergy when traveling.”
Last week, I had a lecture about allergies as part of my Food and Nutrition module. I found it really thought provoking, so I thought for this weeks blog post, I’d interview one of my course mates who has an allergy.
Could you introduce yourself for the readers?
My name is Maryam Marjina Chowdhury. I’m in my 3rd year studying BSc Bakery and Patisserie Technology and I’m from London.
What is the nature of your allergy?
I currently have a mild nut allergy, which for me means I must carry antihistamine tablets with me at all times and I avoid any nut products. If I ingest, or use a product containing nuts, I will get a red rash, feel itchy, and the area of skin may swell up. The severity of my allergy had decreased as I’ve gotten older, which I was made aware of through getting constant blood tests throughout my life and I may grow out of it. As a child I had a severe nut allergy which if I came into contact with nuts it would result in Anaphylaxis.
What is the hardest part about having an allergy?
I think the worst thing, especially as a small child were the jokes people made about allergies. As soon as I mentioned it they would hold both hands up to their throat to imitate suffocating to death which at the time was a reality I had to face. And I think as a society, people think allergies are something to joke about e.g the recent Peter Rabbit film.
How has it impacted your day to day life?
It’s sort of impacted my life for example on school trips and things they weren’t really equipped to dealing with my dietary requirements which kinda meant a lot of times like at someone’s birthday or on the French trip I had to sit there watching other people eat/ drink (in primary school, we went on this one trip, nearby, looking at plants and stuff, I think. And it rained and basically the thing was after walking around in the woods for the whole day the whole class would get hot chocolate and biscuits. Which I couldn’t have.) Just didn’t help that kids would make a big show of eating and how delicious something was. and telling me how much I was missing out. Which I don’t think is the right response. I feel like schools and other institutions aren’t that equipped, in my experience. Especially since I was the only one in my class I believe with any dietary requirements. But since allergy levels are increasing I assume schools take more effort to cater to everyone? Though I don’t know. As it was only in sixth form I met two other people with a nut allergy. It hasn’t really affected my day to day life, as it’s not an extra step to check labels – it’s just something I’ve always done.
How does having an allergy affect your travel?
With travelling, I don’t think I’ve been on a plane when my nut allergy was severe, or if I have I can’t remember.
Do you have any tips for traveling with an allergy?
With traveling, I think definitely anyone who is anaphylactic should call the airline or ferry, but a lot of times I know they can’t guarantee a nut free environment. But what people don’t understand is that in a gigantic plane you opening a packet of peanuts, the dust from that getting into someone’s system is a life or death situation. And even if they have an epi pen, that isn’t necessarily a cure. People take precautions to not have to use it, as it may not always work. It’s just to calm or slow down the anaphylactic shock to get the individual to hospital.
Do you think more needs to be done to increase allergy awareness?
I definitely think awareness it always great I really liked that video that was shown in our lecture, demonstrating how allergies affect lots of different people.
What’s one thing you wish that non allergy sufferers would understand?
That society’s attitudes need to change. In the media, you could probably list where an allergy was used for comic purposes. And jokes made about death and dying and such is just another reminder of excluding allergy sufferers and kind of isolating them. Especially if they are young they are probably terrified of dying from anaphylactic shock as it would be so painful, your wind pipe closes up and you can’t breathe, I just don’t see the joke. When you shouldn’t really have to think about it or comment on it. Like I should just be like I’m allergic to nuts and not feel like I’m bothering people or I’m a burden. I don’t think people should complain that they have to make extra arrangements for someone. Because then your just automatically excluding them. Equality. And to be treated the same is kinda what people want to not be seen as making a big fuss or a drama queen when they just want to eat a meal that won’t kill them.
I hope you have found this as interesting and thought-provoking as I have.
I’m going to leave you with a poem Maryam wrote about her allergies when she was fifteen:
Nuts (pause for laughter)
An enjoyable travel snack,
A scrumptious treat,
That’s what I think when I hear that word.
That’s my reality
Well, tough. You say. It’s my human right, my “freedom” to eat peanuts on a plane or put a snickers bar in my child’s lunchbox or open a carton of honey nut Cheerios wherever I damn well please.
As within a matter of seconds, about as long as I’ve been speaking, or less than that my skin has a blotchy, red appearance, it’s swollen 3x in size.
I’ve emptied the entire contents of my stomach.
I’m so itchy, my body is jam packed with crawling ants and each step they take is a dagger puncturing my insides.
I hear a raspy, grating, wheezing that is my pathetic attempt at breathing.
Tell me again, how my existence on this earth ruins your fun.
Until next time,